Alberta restores authority for community peace officers to enforce COVID-19 orders after calls from municipalities

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Alberta peace officers have again been granted the authority to enforce COVID-19 public health orders after the power expired last Friday.

About 700 community peace officers across the province can dole out $1,000 fines for violations to the restrictions, including indoor social gatherings, physical distancing and requirements for businesses. Tickets for violating the mandatory mask rules can also be higher under the Public Health Act, since Edmonton’s bylaw only allows for $100 fines.

After calls to reinstate this authority, Justice Minister Kaycee Madu on Thursday afternoon signed an order to extend the enforcement powers for another 90 days. These powers were last brought in at the end of November, but expired last week after the 90-day period.

“At the request of municipalities, and given there is no provincial state of emergency at this time, the minister of justice signed a ministerial order to reinstate the use of community peace officers to enforce public health orders,” spokesman Blaise Boehmer said in a statement to Postmedia.

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Mayor Don Iveson on Wednesday during council’s COVID-19 update publicly asked for the powers to be reactivated as another measure to ensure rules are being followed.

In a statement from the mayor’s office Friday, spokeswoman Nathalie Batres said this change is welcome to ensure municipalities can play a role in combatting the pandemic.

“Local governments have been essential partners in combatting this pandemic at every step and we appreciate the provincial government’s recognition of this in the restoration of these public health enforcement powers,” Batres said in the statement.

Of the 30 tickets issued by Edmonton peace officers under the Public Health Act since November, 28 of them were a higher fine for violating mask rules and two were for breaking physical distancing rules.

More to come.

duscook@postmedia.com

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